How long should employee training be?
How long should employee training be? This is a great question with a not-so-simple answer—it depends.
While you were hoping for a specific amount of minimum time required for training new employees, that’s not how it works. Because, the truth is, it’s not about duration—it’s about the value the person gets from the time they spent completing it. To maximize that time, you need to make sure training solves a specific problem and fits into the time people have available.
But this still raises some important questions. First, how short is too short for a training session? And how do you effectively execute training that’s brief but still highly impactful?
Everyone has limited time available to train
While most employees are busy, corporate workers can often schedule time to complete training. Frontline workers are not often afforded the same time away, so training must fit into the limited gaps in their workflow, which means minutes instead of hours.
When deciding how long your training should be, you must consider what’s required to help someone develop a particular knowledge or skill set. And what time do they have available in which to do it?
Firstly, figure out how much time your trainees realistically have. Then determine how short you can keep the training while still ensuring that the concepts stick.
It’s about value—not time
When we say “keep it short,” it’s not because employees have short attention spans. Instead, it’s because our ability to stay focused is based on value (Is this interesting and useful to me? Is it boring and irrelevant?). And that’s why the focus should be on value, not time.
Essentially, if you’re trying to find the optimal length of time to train a new employee, you’re looking at it the wrong way. You should instead be asking what needs to be included to provide maximum value—nothing more, nothing less. You just want meaningful information delivered in an engaging way without filler. There is no magical or scientific answer that says how long a video or training course should be for maximum effectiveness.
- What are your people’s existing skills, and what are the skills gaps?
- What are you trying to help people do?
- What’s the best way to help them do it?
- How do you help people retain information and grow over time?
- How do you fit that training into their busy schedules?
The last question is one of the toughest to answer, as today’s workers are spread especially thin. The answer can often be summed up in one word: microlearning.
Shorter is usually better
We’ve already established that time isn’t the most important factor, but it does matter. Every minute your employees are in training is a minute they’re not on the job. That’s part of the reason why it’s so important to eliminate filler and ensure that your training is only as long as it needs to be. And in an age of high employee turnover, you often need to get people up to speed in as little as one day.
Microlearning has become extremely popular for employee training, in part because it allows you to execute in-depth training in just a few minutes every day. The training is continuous, so you don’t need to frontload a lot of information and keep people away from their work.
For instance, Axonify uses microlearning to promote a more enjoyable and effective training experience within the flow of work. Axonify training sessions average just 5 minutes, 48 seconds—but participants are encouraged to log in every day so they’re always learning and improving. This type of training can accommodate even busy frontline workers.
It’s also backed up by brain science. Research reveals that microlearning promotes greater engagement, enjoyment and retention. So if you’re still thinking of your employee training program in terms of duration, you might build the essential learning materials into a digital training solution that supports daily microlearning. The training never ends (concepts are constantly introduced and reinforced), but the value is continuous and the time required is minimal. There’s still value in on-the-job training, of course, but with a frontline staff training solution like Axonify, employees can log in on their phones before their shift (or even during their shift if your company culture allows), complete a targeted five-minute lesson and call it a day.
Employee training time at a glance
If you’re still unsure how long you should be training employees for their professional development, remember the essentials:
- Think of it in terms of value, not time.
- Keep it as short as it needs to be.
- Focus on the concepts that you need to instill and the best way to reinforce those concepts.
- Understand that different employees/teams will have different needs in terms of time and value.
- Use microlearning to fit each training session within the flow of work and encourage employee retention.
- Track your employee training continuously, and look for ways to improve it if people are struggling with it or failing to engage.
When you develop a training program that’s engaging and meaningful for new hires and seasoned employees alike, you can ensure that your team is constantly growing, learning and improving.